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What Is Bone Cement?

Bone cement is used in hip replacement procedures to attach the femoral head of the leg to the artificial hip.
A diagram of the anatomy of a bone.
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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 03 August 2014
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Bone cement is a substance used in hip replacement surgery that acts as an adhesive to hold the artificial hip in place. It either comes in a pre-mixed form or as powders and liquids that are mixed in the operating room during surgery. The cement is also used to fill any holes or cracks in bones and may contain antibiotics to prevent infection. Once mixed, the adhesive becomes a paste or doughy substance that sets in minutes.

Bone cement properties consist of poly methyl methacrylate (PMMA). This type of plastic is also used in unbreakable glass, bathtubs, and shower enclosures. It is a standard adhesive used in hip replacement procedures to attach the femoral head of the leg to the artificial hip. Hip replacement surgeries done with this substance typically remain serviceable for decades.

Surgeons also use bone cement in vertebroplasty procedures to treat osteoporosis. The paste is injected into cracks in the spine to seal them. The doctor uses x-rays and a viewing screen to determine where to insert a needle that delivers the sealant to the spinal column. In this procedure, bonding might relieve pain caused by compression fractures due to osteoporosis.

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Studies were funded in 2010 for human trials to explore the use of bone cement to repair head and facial injuries suffered by war veterans. A substance that prompts bone growth can be injected into the cement and may eliminate the need for metal plates to repair fractured bones. The use of the adhesive might also work on broken arms and legs that are fractured in accidents.

When antibiotics are added to bone mortar, it can help reduce infection. Bacterial infection hinders the regeneration of bone and might lead to amputation if an open fracture exposed to air becomes invaded by certain bacteria. Animal studies show that injecting this product into broken bones after it is laced with specific antibiotics can ward off staph infections.

Non-synthetic bone cement is used by heart surgeons to close the breast bone after open heart surgery. Polymer bone cement, which consists of triglycerides from the castor bean plant and calcium chloride, might decrease pain and speed recovery in heart surgery patients. Most of the pain after open heart surgery comes from opening the sternum to gain access to the heart, which is typically closed with wires. When bone cement is used, the sternum usually becomes completely stable after 24 hours.

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